Jem & Ella

Review by Kirsty Alexander
Run Ragged Productions
Reviewed at Sherman Theatre
For ages 7+

Remember the days when you used to dance around at family parties, standing on your Dad’s feet as you wannabe-waltzed across the floor (before you were too cool to even stand next to him, of course!)? Run Ragged’s new offering of Jem and Ella is a wonderfully nostalgic and endearing piece as the dance worlds – and styles – of Father and Daughter collide. Taking over the Sherman’s studio space to end their Welsh tour, the duo are full of energy and spark in this short but sweet performance.

Ella is an incredibly talented dancer, but on the cusp of becoming a teenager, she is struggling with her routine of Netflix, food, and ballet lessons. Meanwhile Dad Jem, a professional contemporary dancer who doesn’t like to admit when he’s wrong, is just turning the dreaded 50. The trust and spark between the two is instantly apparent as their relationship is documented through a series of spoken word, movement, voice overs and home video projections.

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Image by Jorge Lizalde

The central Dance Rug – the space in any family home which turns into a “shake it out” zone – was beautifully lit, and the soundtrack lifted the performance at just the right times throughout the hour. However, this piece really didn’t need any flashy production elements. It is the relationship between the duo, their skills, flexibility and ability to bounce off each other, which is the most interesting to watch.

The younger audience members around me seemed genuinely disappointed when it came to the end, hoping it was instead an interval; many parents will have been asked for dance lessons in the car journey home. A warm and charming production, which made me want to dig out my old dance shoes and be little enough to stand on my Dad’s feet without breaking bones!

Kirsty works at the Wales Millenium Centre, the leading arts centre in Wales. She is part of the Welsh Young Critics’ scheme, and you can read more of her reviews on herblog. Follow Kirsty @chaotickirstyy

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